As a photographer, I’m always on the look out for subjects to photograph and that’s one of the many reasons why steampunk appeals to me. I love the creation, the Victorian splendour, the smart clothes of the gentlemen and the shape that a corset produces on ladies. I have to admit that sometimes I feel a little ashamed of that previous point. I feel as though it somehow brings me down to a more primal attitude to women because I’m looking at the shape of their body and not the photographic element. But then as I sit back and look in more detail, I realise that in fact, I like how that shape looks in the rectangular frame of a photograph.
There are others who simply don’t see it that way, though and if you have a look around you’ll see that some models are approached by photographers who have a dubious moral attitude. What has concerned me more recently is some of the horror stories that have come from Whitby Goth Weekend – an event that will be frequented by many steampunks. It’s an event for people to go and get dressed up, appreciate other people getting dressed up and show off your creative ambition. People of all ages and backgrounds will visit and they won’t all be there as goths or steampunks. There are tourists milling around who will want to take photographs and there will be photographers looking to expand their portfolio. So what do you do if you have someone wanting to take your picture? There are a number of different types of people approaching you that you will have to deal with:
Polite Most people will politely ask if they can take a photograph of you. In most cases, steampunks are more than happy to pose. After all, we’re a bunch of posers, right? Or is that just me? Well it’s certainly not all of us, but I don’t think I’m alone. If you’re politely asked for a photo and you’re ok with it, no problem. Have a chat with them, give them an email address and ask to get a copy of the picture. Or say no. You have the right and you don’t have to be pressured into having a photograph taken. Politely refuse though. We should still be splendid even when asked to do something we don’t want to do.
Background Some people will take photographs in the background. I admit, I’ve done this when I was very new to the scene and it’s not something I’m proud of.
Taking photographs in the background isn’t a very nice thing to do and the time I did it, I felt ashamed of myself as I looked at the photographs the following day. If you’re a photographer and looking for someone to shoot, approach them and ask them. Chances are, they’ll say yes and you can get some fantastic shots. If they say no, so what? They have that right and you have to respect that.
Stripping all the emotion and politeness out of it for a moment, the law states that anyone is allowed to photograph anything and anyone else (exempting government/military sensitive buildings) while on public land. Bring back that sense of decorum and photographers should think about the person in the costume. Yes, they want to be seen and are proud of how they look and what they’ve (more than likely) made. That doesn’t give you the right to stand on the other side of the street and take pictures.
Thoughtless From the background photographers, we move on to the thoughtless ones. These are the photographers that will simply walk up to you and take a picture as you’re walking down the street, chatting to a friend or stuffing a large piece of fish into your mouth. They want a shot, they’re scared to ask or (worst case scenario) don’t care about whether you’re busy or not and so they walk up, take a picture, maybe give a patronising nod of the head as a thank you and walk away. The sheer arrogance of them is enough to make your blood boil.
Creep Like the ability to destroy a planet when compared to the Force, the arrogance of the thoughtless is insignificant next to the arrogance of the creep. These are the people that you really have to look out for. Especially if you’re a girl. These are the photographers that will actively hound you, chase you and invade all aspects of your personal space in order to get the shot. These are the worst people to encounter and, sadly, they’re a growing presence.
There was a story a couple of years ago of a young girl being chased into a shop by photographers who then stood outside blocking the doorway until she reluctantly emerged. She did so, because she felt bad that no customers could get into the shop. That’s simply just not cricket. Unfortunately it’s a sad truth that it’s the girls that get the Lion’s share of the problems. The photographers looking to get the shots are men and they’re not that interested in photographs of other men. In fact on a number of forums, there are posts where the photographers simply see WGW as a means to get a free model shoot.
As a photographer, I have to say that it’s not the way to go about things. A shoot isn’t opportunistic. A shoot is planned and well thought out. What these gentlemen are doing is taking snaps, not photography. They think that owning an expensive camera and understanding what an f stop is makes them a photographer, but that’s not true.
If you’re a photographer reading this article, you have to understand that you’re becoming a plague on events such as this. If this kind of harassment continues or exacerbates, the Goths and steampunks will simply stop going and WGW will die out. Then what will you do?
There’s nothing wrong with asking if you can take a picture. If you’re told no, then please respect the person’s wish because not everyone is there to have a picture taken and most certainly, they’re not there for your pleasure. If you do gain consent, don’t bring it down a level by trying to expose even more flesh. The person you’re photographing will be showing how much they’re comfortable with showing. If you decide to ignore these guidelines, you’re simply giving photographers a bad name.